Church Shopping: Laodicea

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A million dollars is a lot of money! What would you be willing to do for a million dollars? Would you move to Antarctica for 6 months? Take a soaking bath in manure? Would you randomly stand up in church and do the funky chicken and quack like a chicken? Let’s bring this into a little bit more serious challenge—Would you be willing to kill someone for a million dollars—if all you had to do was press a button. In 2009, Cameron Diaz starred in a movie called “The Box,” where she was offered a million dollars to press a button. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6HT1K-XoREU. Let me take this social experiment one step farther, would you give up your faith in Christ?

 

Today, after visiting 6 different churches all over 1st century Turkey, we conclude our series with the church in Laodicea wrestling with that last question most heavily, is there a price at which Christ will be forfeited to win the whole world? Some of the churches we visited faced poverty, others persecution, some mild prosperity, but today we find a city sitting on gold and Christians who are considering whether to give up God. Laodicea was the banking center for their region, home for 40,000 people, with two good sized theaters outnumbering the 200,000 person town of Ephesus, had a booming marketplace, textile manufacturing, and a salve (eye treatment which brought people from far and wide). They had economic, medical, and manufacturing centers pumping the city with vitality, wealth, and prosperity, and yet despite everything seemingly perfect, Jesus begins his letter:14 “To the angel of the church in Laodicea write: These are the words of the Amen (a title meaning God of truth), the faithful and true witness, the ruler of God’s creation. Jesus is preparing the people: You might not like what I have to say, but you need to hear the truth, the people in Laodicea despite embracing self-sufficiency had a problem with their:

 

Bottled Water (Revelation 3:14-16) A sign of great wealth of our nation is that you can walk into any grocery store and find piles of fresh, clean, bottled water all ready to be consumed. Yet, you only need bottled water when your water leaves something lacking. Jesus uses the Laodicea water crisis to highlight their spiritual crisis:

15 I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! 16 So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth. Laodicea was a city struggling with a water crisis. Just like Flint, MI where the water was contaminated, Laodicea had no natural source of water in the Lycus Valley, and the water they piped in was full of minerals, smelled horribly, and was tepid once it finally arrived in town in the hot Asian sun. The next town over Hierapolis being known for healing and hygienic hot springs while Colossae nearby got cool, crisp, refreshing water from the glacial melt. Jesus points out that like their tepid, room-temperature, nasty water; they had become contaminated by the comfort all around them. Hot water had a purpose—cold water had a purpose—but Jesus is saying pretty clearly, “You make me want to puke.” The people of Laodicea boasted in their self-sufficiency and yet they lacked the very thing that they needed to be self sustaining.

Curtis Mitchell in his book Let’s Live! told the story of Miss Jones, an elderly spinster lady who lived in a small Midwestern town.  When Miss Jones died, the editor of the local paper wanted to say something nice about her in the obituary column –– but he was having trouble coming up with anything.  Miss Jones had never caused any trouble, but it didn’t seem like she had done much good either. Then the editor learned that the man who sold tombstones was having the same problem.  What could he put on the tombstone other than Miss Jones’ name and the dates of her birth and death? The editor went back to the office and assigned the project to a sportswriter.  The sportswriter did a little research, but he could not find much that Miss Jones had ever done.  Finally, he wrote a little verse that summarized Miss Jones “to a T.”  And so, I am told, if you were to visit the graveyard where Miss Jones is buried, you would read this on her tombstone: Here lie the bones of Nancy Jones, For her life held no terrors. She lived an old maid. She died an old maid. No hits, no runs, no errors.

The legendary basketball coach of UCLA John Wooden use to say, “The team that makes the most mistakes usually wins!” Now Wooden wasn’t one to advocate sloppy play, but he did advocate leaving everything on the court. Laodicea Christians weren’t willing to live the faith, because they were pretty comfortable with the status quo and as a result they had become tepid, neither hot nor cold, without purpose. One commentary put it bluntly, “There is nothing more disgusting than a half-hearted, in-name-only Christian, who is self-sufficient.” We build up entire worlds around us trying to convince ourselves we are self-sufficient, and yet the greatest hurdle of them all—death leave our fallacy fully exposed. The Bible says “. . . man is destined to die once, and after that to face judgment” (Heb. 9:27).It is time to be either hot or cold, but not room temperature. You have to decide if you are in or you are out—you can come up with an excuse for everyday of the year if you want, but there are only two options: “Make progress or make excuses.”

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